By Richard Cattell, head of marketing & communications, Red Tractor Assurance
There is no doubt that celebrity chefs do a lot of good when it comes to educating the public about the quality and provenance of food.
Many advocate British sourcing while others encourage their audience to balance their search for affordable food with quality, urging them to challenge where their food comes from and how it was produced.
Generally this is good news for Red Tractor assured food because consumers know that it’s safe, traceable and farmed with care – affordable food, no matter what your budget is.
But we can’t have it all our own way.
Jamie Oliver recently made the press by stating “I wouldn’t feed Red Tractor chicken to my kids” on Channel’s 4’s Friday Night Feast.
Frustratingly, this was a re-run of the programme which first aired last year.
Unfortunately, Jamie ignored the fact that Red Tractor has a free range scheme, and portrayed Red Tractor as the “bottom rung” of production.
When it first aired we spoke to Jamie’s production team highlighting a number of inaccuracies which, for whatever reason, were not edited or corrected.
For our poultry producers, and for us, it is very disappointing to see a misleading and factually incorrect portrayal of Red Tractor.
Far from being the bottom rung our members produce chicken to standards which exceed the UK and EU legal minimum.
The truth is that our standards are significantly higher than other parts of the world, including the USA.
After the episode was repeated, we contacted the production team again and made our position very clear. It was misleading, ill-informed and damaging to our members.
We accept that Jamie has his view and that he prefers to look for a higher welfare product.
What we can’t accept is such a high-profile chef inaccurately portraying our industry to millions of consumers.
The silver lining is that a more collaborative approach is hopefully on the horizon. Red Tractor has been invited to advise, as part of a wider group, on possible features for the next series.
It’s a side to Red Tractor Assurance that many farmers won’t see, but educating and challenging celebrities has a huge impact on what consumers know about our scheme.
Come on Jamie – we are on the same side.